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Remembering Chalmers Ashby Johnson (8/6/31 - 11/20/10)

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Distinguished scholar, author, Korean War veteran, and former CIA consultant turned anti-war activist, Johnson taught political science and Chinese studies for 30 years at the University of California's Berkeley and San Diego campuses from 1962 - 1992, holding endowed chairs in Asian politics at both. At Berkeley, he also served as Chairman of the Center for Chinese Studies and its Department of Political Science.

From 1967 - 1973, he was a consultant for the CIA'S Office of National Estimates (NIEs), contributing analysis on China and Maoism.

In 1976, he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1994, he co-founded and served as president of the Japan Policy Research Institute (JPRI), "dedicated to policy-relevant research and public education on Japan and the entire Pacific Rim, with the aim of advancing inter-societal understanding, regional reconciliation, and global justice."

Johnson was also a prolific writer of numerous articles and 18 books, his newest titled, "Dismantling the Empire - America's Last Best Hope," calling the country's reliance on global imperialism and permanent wars a "suicide option" unless reversed, the topic his well-known trilogy addressed:

-- "Blowback," CIA terminology following its first foreign leader coup, ousting Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, ushering in 26 years of dictatorship under Shah Reza Pahlavi;

-- "The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic;" and

-- "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic."

Combined, the three volumes show how imperial hubris and overreach undermined the republic, what Johnson called: 

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"arrogant and misguided American policies (that) headed us for a series of catastrophes comparable to our disgrace and defeat in Vietnam or even to the sort of extinction that befell....the Soviet Union (that he believes is) now unavoidable."

Calling America's condition dire, he said it's "too late for mere scattered reforms of our government or bloated military to make much difference." History is clear, he stressed. We can choose democracy and survive. Or continue as present and perish, saying America is plagued by the same dynamic that doomed past empires unwilling to change, what he called: 

"isolation, overstretch, the uniting of local and global forces opposed to imperialism, and in the end bankruptcy," combined with authoritarian rule and loss of personal freedom.

Hence, his title, Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance and punisher of hubris and arrogance in Greek mythology. She's already among us, unseen and patiently stalking our way of life as a free nation, awaiting her moment to appear, our day of reckoning. 

Johnson compared her to Wagner's Brunnhilde in Der Ring des Nibelungen. Unlike Nemesis, she collects heros, not fools and hypocrites. But she and Nemesis announce themselves the same way: "Only the doomed see me," even though her presence harms everyone.

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Post-9/11, Johnson railed against destructive policies driving the country to tyranny and ruin, citing:

-- a nation with no enemies permanently at war;

-- a secret, unaccountable global torture prison gulag;

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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In your eulogy of Chalmers Johnson your quotes of ... by Stewart Wechsler on Tuesday, Nov 23, 2010 at 1:10:40 PM
I wrote a book review of Johnson's Sorrows of Empi... by GLloyd Rowsey on Tuesday, Nov 23, 2010 at 10:45:59 PM
Chalmers was a person who spoke truth to power, ev... by John Little on Wednesday, Nov 24, 2010 at 12:24:02 AM